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Posts about Minnesota Parks

Sept. 18, 1920: A cranial cure for ‘criminal tendencies’

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: September 19, 2012 - 5:31 PM
A link between brain damage and anti-social behavior has been well-documented. It’s unclear how well-documented the link was in 1920, when a court sent a robbery suspect to a St. Paul hospital for a bit of cranial surgery to cure his “criminal tendencies.” Did it work? That's also unclear. There’s no mention of the scofflaw in subsequent issues of the Minneapolis Tribune, and no record of a Nobel prize for the surgeon.

Veteran of World War,
Bent on Crime, May Be
Cured by Operation

Francis J. Poole, 19 years old, veteran of the World war, underwent an operation at St. Joseph’s hospital in St. Paul yesterday for removal of pressure of the skull on the brain, which physicians believe has led the young man into criminal ways.  Poole was taken from the Ramsey county jail and given under custody of Dr. A.E. Comstock by order of the court. He is held on a charge of attempted highway robbery.
The young soldier was shot in the head while in the state militia in 1917, accidentally, and the skull on the top of his head was badly broken and splintered. An operation at that time was difficult because of the serious damage to the skull but surgeons hoped it would properly heal. It apparently did for young Poole went to France and served in the World war, where he was gassed.

On his return home no indications of the pressure on the brain was evidenced until a month ago when he assaulted and attempted to rob Thomas J. Brickley, a taxicab driver, at Sauers Park on a trip to Gladstone. Poole was overpowered and locked up.
Dr. Comstock and other physicians made an examination of the wound and declared that pressure of the tissue on the brain caused the criminal tendencies. Young Poole stood the operation well and is expected to recover shortly.
St. Joseph's Hospital, Ninth and Exchange, St. Paul, in 1912. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society)


Aug. 1, 1897: Minnetonka's up-to-date hermit

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: May 2, 2012 - 6:44 AM
Frank Halsted, a New Jersey native, settled on Lake Minnetonka in 1855. He served in the Navy during the Civil War, commanding a Union gunboat on the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers in 1863-65. After the war, he returned to Lake Minnetonka and built a cabin that came to be known as the Hermitage. Some years later he went into debt to build a steamboat, but the stress of owing money apparently was too much for this “man of erratic habits,” as the Tribune described him upon his death. In July 1876, a few days after he was last seen at his cabin, a fishing party found his body floating in the lake, a stone-filled sack tied around his neck. The coroner ruled it a suicide. Abiding by his will, the citizens of Excelsior buried him on his property, not far from the cabin.
Which brings us to his brother, George Halsted, who is profiled in the Minneapolis Tribune story below. The elder Halsted traveled from New Jersey to Minnesota to take care of his brother’s affairs. George Halsted apparently found Minnetonka much to his liking. He moved into his brother’s cabin and assumed his brother’s title, the Hermit. But George wasn’t a recluse. He welcomed paying guests who came by steamboat to tour the curio-filled cabin and chat with its well-read and well-spoken occupant. By the 1890s, thousands were visiting the Hermitage every summer.
You will notice an extra "a" -- Halstead -- in one of the subheads atop this 1897 profile. It’s a common misspelling, or perhaps even the correct spelling. In story after story published after the brothers arrived in Minnesota, the Tribune alternated between the two spellings. Google searches produce similar results today. But Halsted seems to be the dominant spelling, despite the extra vowel in the Lake Minnetonka bay named for the two men.
George Halsted died four years after this story was published. A fire consumed the Hermitage, with him inside, in 1901.
George Halsted at home at the Hermitage in about 1890. The cigarette in his mouth and plenty of flammable clutter suggest possible causes of the fire that took his life. (Image courtesy



Upper Lake Minnetonka Has a Star Attraction in the Hermitage.
Maj. George B. Halstead Has Led a Solitary Life There for 21 Years.
Some of His Peculiarities as Well as Good Qualities.
Standing conspicuously forth among the multitude of attractions strewn by nature with lavish hand about the shores of Lake Minnetonka, imparting an endearing charm, are two real curiosities, the Hermitage and Crane Island. Apart from the magic spell of their names, each is vested with talismanic powers, and acquaintance rebukes the unromantic, under the spell of a subtle enchantment. Few people go to Minnetonka without visiting the upper lake where these interesting objects are situated.
Of these two, by far the largest share of attention falls to the Hermitage, with its bright, hospitable occupant known as the hermit. The door is never locked, and every visitor is welcome. Unlike the nominal characters of fiction, the solitary inmate of the curious old structure evinces a fondness for company, and is personally known by those who have seen him, as a conversational entertainer of exceptional ability.
These and other attractions have stifled the aversion commonly met with in the popular mind for those of his kin, and Maj. George Blight Halsted has secured respect from the thousands who have visited his home. He does not object to being called the hermit, in fact rather likes the distinction, and none need fear of offending him by speaking of his cozy little dwelling on the extreme upper shore of Lake Minnetonka as the Hermitage, even though the owner and occupant is within hearing. By his companionable qualities he has improved the “order of hermit,” so to speak, bringing it strictly up to date, but even with these traits considered he may rightly be considered an unusual man with eccentricities sufficiently pronounced to give him an added interest.
Secret influences have wrought a change in the life of Major Halsted. It was the death of his brother at Minnetonka, for who he entertained such strong affection, that attracted him to this section of the West, but there may have been a love affair back of that. He is thought to be about 80 years of age. The supposition is reasonable in view of the fact that he graduated from Princeton in 1839. He always says he is 48 years old. Lineally, he deserves attention as he comes from a family of lawyers, politicians and fighters. His father was chief chancellor of the state of New Jersey. The major earned his title in the late rebellion; he is a linguist of enviable attainment, and a frequent contributor to magazines of the day.
It was in 1876 that Maj. Halsted came to Minnetonka. His mission was to bury the remains of his brother, Frank Halsted, whose sudden demise followed his completion of the steamer “Mary.” Frank was laid to rest in a plot of earth near the Hermitage. The spot is marked by the American colors, and each evening when at home the major sits in sorrow beside the place.
The Hermitage is a small, unpretentious frame building with picturesque surroundings, situated near the water’s surroundings, situated near the water’s edge, about a mile above Zumbra Heights. Visitors have been largely responsible for making the place what it is, for inside and outside it is literally a gathering of curiosities. No one thinks of making a call without leaving a card, and the fashionable thing at the Hermitage is to imprint one’s name with a knife in the walls of the dwelling. Within are to be seen relics and antiquities of all descriptions.
If Maj. Halsted intends keeping up his life of a hermit he will soon have to secure additional accommodations. The present one is almost used up, between the cutting of names on the walls and the fullness of the rooms with curios. In the latter there is little space to turn around. Lately visitors have taken to writing their names on pieces of paper which are pinned to the window curtains, and anything else that will yield to a pin. Once there they are almost sure to remain, for the hermit never seems to disturb anything, although he cares for the house himself. Visitors are so impressed with the confidences he reposes in them that they are governed by an appreciative regard and leave things as they find them.

“I never lock my doors day or night, whether I am at home or away,” said Major Halsted. “I think it is safer to leave them open and I am not afraid of people stealing things.” It is possible that if his home was nearer Minneapolis it would not require a score of years for him to have a less firm confidence in human nature. As it is though, tramps stole a rifle from his house last year.
With a true gentlemanly instinct, the hermit is always polite and obliging to the ladies. Indeed, his gallantry became well-known when as captain of the “Mary,” after his arrival here, he drew upon his head praise from those members of the fair sex who engaged transportation on his boat. By some means a feeling other than friendly sprang up against him in the circles of competing lines, and one time he was run down in the Narrows by a lake captain in charge of the Belle of Minnetonka, when he was in a small boat. He barely escaped drowning. For that act he never forgave the company, and to this day refuses to allow their boats to land at his dock, the loss to the company being in the thousands of dollars. Once, when a boat persisted in approaching contrary to the orders of the major the latter stood at the dock with a shot gun, threatening to shoot the first man who stepped ashore, and stating the next would go through the captain. There was little doubt he meant what he said.
The gentleness of his nature is shown in the affection with which he welcomes birds, which are so tame about his place that they stand on his knee. He never kills snakes and considers them perfectly harmless. He can tell the cry of a frog when caught by a snake, and at once saves the former from its enemy. He is a capital story teller, and discourses with interest on current topics, or entertaining reminiscences. He earns some money by hauling wood in the winter, and draws a pension. When eating at a restaurant he displays partiality to puddings, usually ordering the complete menu list. It is his wish that his home and property be given to the widows and orphans of old soldiers. 
The Hermitage drew big crowds during the summer. Here, Minneapolis members of the Ohio Association lounged on the grass outside the cabin in 1898, listening to a speech. (Courtesy of Hennepin County Library's Minneapolis Photo Collection)


June 16, 1920: City’s most skillful woman motorist

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: April 20, 2012 - 6:39 PM
This Minneapolis Tribune report is packed with names and addresses. Have at it, genealogists!

City’s Most Skillful Woman
Motorist Discovered in Test

Mrs. C.B. Cooper Speeds 25 Miles, Stops Car Within 60
Feet, Winning First Prize in Careful
Driving Contest

By bringing her touring car down the straightaway at 25 miles an hour, jamming on the brakes and slowing it to a dead stop within 60 feet, Mrs. C.B. Cooper, 2540 Aldrich avenue south, won the title yesterday of Minneapolis’s most skillful woman motorist.
Her victory, which she won by 18 inches over Mrs. H.E. Young, 116 Groveland avenue, was the climax of a contest in car management among 18 women automobilists of Minneapolis at the Lake Harriet Concourse.
The contest was a sort of graduation for women who have attended the course of instruction given by the Minneapolis division of the National Safety Council, with the aid of the Civic & Commerce association, the Automobiles Trades association and the Police and Park departments. Mrs. Cooper was awarded a silver loving cup by L.M. Browne on behalf of the Automobile Trades association. Mr. Browne, an officer in the Gray Motor company, had won the cup himself several years ago in a similar contest in Detroit.
Crowds Watch Performance.
Threatening rain reduced the number of entrants and spectators, but scores watched the performance in front of the pavilion.
The first test was cutting a small figure eight at ordinary driving speed. White kegs marked this course and only one of these was smashed. The women drivers made the compound turns with skill and grace. Mrs. H.E. Young, 116 Groveland avenue, won first place in this, with Mrs. F.L. Lucke, 1789 James avenue south, second.
This event was followed by stopping from a speed of 25 miles an hour. Then followed stops at 20 miles an hour, 15 miles an hour and 10 miles an hour.
The contestants were rated on their showing for the whole course, including the figure eight. From the 18 the following were chosen for the final test: Mrs. C.B. Cooper; Mrs. C.P. Wilkinson, 5045 Colfax avenue south; Mrs. H. E. Young; Mrs. John H. Steele, 1920 Girard avenue south; Mrs. C.B. Cox, 5003 Stevens avenue; and Mrs. E.A. Johnston, 1234 Washburn avenue north.
All six cars made remarkably swift stops, with Mrs. Young and Mrs. Cooper so nearly tied for first honors that they had to run a special course to decide the winners.
Other contestants yesterday were Mrs. P.J. Murphy, 2844 Irving avenue south; Helen Blum, 907 Oliver avenue north; Mrs. C. Lean, 2915 West Forty-eighth street; Mrs. A.H. Long, 311 Fifth avenue south; Mrs. Gerald Martin, 2368 Lake of the Isles boulevard; Mrs. Rex Heald, 4460 Lake Harriet boulevard; Mrs. W.H. Gooch, 2323 Newton avenue south; Mrs. Lillian Johnson, 2111 eleventh avenue south; Mrs. J.R. Shaw, 921 West Thirty-sixth street; Mrs. George C. Hunt, 2537 Aldrich avenue south, and Mrs. Albert P. Kimm, 3337 Pillsbury avenue.
Directed by R.C. Haven.
The contest was directed by R.C. Haven, manager of the Minneapolis division of the National Safety Council, and L.M. Browne. The judges were Lieut. John Hart, chief of the traffic department; Judge T.H. Salmon of Conciliation court; Dr. C.H. Kohler, president of the Minneapolis division of the Safety council; Walter Wilmot, secretary of the Automobile Trades association, and Louis Nathanson of the civil service commission.
Lieutenant Hart addressed the contestants after the awarding of the cup, complimenting them on their work in the training course designed to reduce automobile accidents. Mr. Haven announced that another course in auto driving probably will be held next fall. He said information about the school and yesterday’s contest has been sought by other cities and will be used in their campaigns against accidents.  
A well-heeled and well-gloved driver of 1918. (Image courtesy


The Lake Harriet Pavilion in 1920. The numbers "1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9" are visible atop the building. Does anyone know what they were for? (Image courtesy



May 15, 1905: Wonderland amusement park opens

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: March 14, 2012 - 3:19 PM
Thousands flocked to 31st and E. Lake Street in May 1905 for a preview of a new 10-acre amusement park called Wonderland. A Tribune reporter in attendance somehow captured the glittery excitement of the day without getting a single quote from the park’s owners, visitors or employees.
Jump to the section headlined “How To Raise Babies” for a description of the park’s most unusual feature, a building where premature infants were on display, along with their doctors and nurses.
By 1911, the park had grown to 20 acres, 200-some buildings and a new boardwalk. But the land was apparently worth more than the revenue generated each year. The buildings were razed the following summer, and the land was divided into 99 residential lots and sold. One of the original structures – the Infant Incubator Institute at 3101 E. 31st Street – was converted to apartments and still stands.
The park's “toboggan slide” was more than 50 feet tall. Riders plunged nearly 200 feet down into a lagoon. (Image courtesy



Minneapolis people turned out by the thousand yesterday afternoon to be present at the informal opening of the new Wonderland Amusement Park, at Lake and thirty-first streets.
The gates were thrown open to the public free of charge during the afternoon, and it is estimated that from 2 until 5 o’clock there were fully 15,000 people who took advantage of the invitation of the management to view the display. Along Lake street from the Minnehaha car line a steady stream of people filled both sides of the street during the afternoon, on their way to the opening of the park.
None of the attractions is as yet running but the privilege of seeing just what the new wonderland will be, proved an attraction in itself. Until the park is in operation any true conception of its features will be practically an impossibility but a fair idea was gained by the crowds yesterday of what the amusements will include. A park of this kind so extensive in size and given up wholly to popular forms of amusement can not be understood by any mere description of its features.
The first thing that claims the attention of the spectator as he enters the grounds, and before his mind has had time to grasp any particular feature, is the immensity in which everything is carried out. After the main entrance, which resembles a miniature Washington arch, a huge enclosure greets the eye skirted by structures of every conceivable kind built to accommodate some form of entertainment. The first impression conveyed is that a world’s fair on a small scale is opened before one’s view.
The large size of the park makes an appropriate setting for the whole ensemble of buildings. Facing the main entrance, with its extreme height throwing the structure in bold relief against the blue sky beyond, stands the “chutes.” This great “toboggan slide” affair reaches over fifty feet in the air with its majestic incline reaching for nearly 200 feet down into a lagoon. This lagoon, which is in fact an artificial lake, is strung with festoons of electric lights which will give it a gala appearance at night. Along the incline of the chutes lights are hung as well as thickly sprinkled in clusters at the top.
The designers of the park seem to have taken one of the prime features of the recent Buffalo Exposition as their model. Appreciating the decorative effect that can be obtained by the aid of electricity, they have utilized electric lighting on a mammoth scale. The complete array of buildings on the grounds will show up resplendent in the evening with the aid of thousands of various colored electric light globes. Every part of the park as well as the outlines of the buildings will be enriched by electric lights.
Almost in the center of the grounds the electrical tower will be situated rearing up in all the brilliancy of 7,000 lights to a height of 120 feet. Surmounting this height a powerful searchlight will be installed capable of lighting up the country for miles around. This tower will appear like one great pillar of light with its brilliancy intensified by the marble-like whiteness of the tower itself. The prime element of importance which will do more than anything else to make the park attractive at night will be this wonderful illumination. When the whole group of amusement devices are trimmed with lights, 23,000 globes will have been used.
The feature that has been planned to be the most important, and the one that perhaps attracted the most comment yesterday, was the scenic railway. This enterprise, which represents an enormous outlay of money for an amusement affair, is an exact duplicate of the aerial railway which proved a drawing card for the St. Louis fair last summer. The elevated structure, with its weird undulations, extends nearly the whole length of the ten acre tract comprising the park. At one end, which is arranged like the stations of an elevated road, is a small platform from which the start is made. The cars are run two together as a small train and controlled by an attendant whose duty it is to manipulate the brakes in case anyone becomes frightened. The trains are carried by cable up to the highest point of the track, which is about fifty feet from the ground. From there they are released and the force of gravity is relied upon for the motive power.
At a tremendous speed these cars whirl up and down the curves, running for part of the time through a series of caves and subterranean passages. These are made in almost perfect imitation of natural caverns. The total distance travelled in a trip around the scenic railway will be over 4,200 feet. At some of the inclines a speed of forty miles an hour is made and thrilling to an extreme. Care of detail and strength of construction have made accidents almost an impossibility.
The tower for the flying airships is on the ground and partly set up. This affair which consists of a steel tower, eighty-five feet in height, will have a shaft running perpendicularly through it to the ground to provide power for revolving the cars. Immense arms will project out from this shaft upon which five cars are to be attached. By the aid of a motor a shaft will be turned and centrifugal force will swing the cars until, when a high speed is attained, the cars will stretch out almost level with the top of the tower.
The fairy theater will be something entirely new in amusement enterprises. Instead of the audience sitting in an auditorium as in the ordinary theater, the stage is to be viewed from a distance through loopholes in a wall. Each of these apertures will be fitted will be fitted with lenses that will give weird effects to the antics of the people on the stage.
The old mill is an attraction without which no summer resort is complete. Although the idea is not new, originality will be attained by the many unique and pleasing features which are to be a part of a trip through the dark passages of the mill. The immense water wheel will drive a stream of water though a maize of dark caverns extending in and out among the rocks for a distance of over a quarter of a mile. The passage will be dark for the most part, but at intervals the traveler will come upon scenes of every description. A faithful reproduction of the Everglades, a village in the moonlight with light and dark effects worked out in detail, a witch’s cave with glittering rocks and variegated stalactite columns reaching to a seemingly unending distance, and a summer aquatic scene are among the many points of interest that the boat will pass in its journey through the winding canal.
The building devoted to the baby incubators will be a source of wonderment to many. There the science of caring for babies too frail to live without artificial aid will be shown in full. The doctors and nurses who will have the children in charge will live upon the grounds. A model nursery will be a part of the exhibit where scientific methods of caring for children will be demonstrated.
A mystic maize, an ingenious device which is planned as a stellar attraction as a mirth provoker called “bump the bumps,” a mystic city, and a house of nonsense, are among the features which make a fine external appearance, but which will undoubtedly have to be seen to be appreciated.
A creation, which is an outgrowth of the old-fashioned merry-go-round, is a revolving machine, large enough to accommodate several hundred people. Nearby this affair a large dancing hall is situated which will furnish sufficient room for about 300 people. This pavilion is provided with a mirror-like floor which will make it an admirable place for dancing. A complete orchestra will be situated in a balcony in the pavilion to furnish the music.
An attraction that will be a delight to old as well as young is the miniature railway. A train of four cars will run on this road, pulled by an engine, which, although a perfect reproduction of the standard type of railway locomotive, stands less than four feet in height. The track runs around the entire enclosure, just inside the promenade.
This promenade, which is just inside the circle of buildings, will be to Wonderland what the “Pike” was to St. Louis, and the “Midway” was at Chicago. On this wide walk the sightseer may walk around, viewing the crowds and witnessing the many open-air attractions that are to be provided.
In anticipation of crowds, that will rival those of the state fair in magnitude, arrangements have been made for the best kind of street car service. Aside from the Minnehaha line, the new Lake street line will furnish the service to the grounds. Cars will run direct to the grounds from each of the lines that cross the Lake street line from Hennepin avenue out as far as the park.
In general, the work is practically completed, the remaining part of finishing the grounds ready for the commencement of the season being in the hands of the electricians, decorators, and landscape gardeners. Everything will be in perfect trim on May 27, when the gates will be thrown open for the formal opening with a dozen bands combining with the maize of other attractions to welcome the people of Minneapolis to their latest summer resort.
The park's "scenic railway" soared more than 50 feet in the air; cars reached top speeds of 40 miles per hour. (Image courtesy


Some babies in the park's Infant Incubator Institute were more premature than others. (Image courtesy


June 10, 1871: How mosquitoes bite

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: August 22, 2011 - 9:43 PM
If I understand this Minneapolis Tribune piece correctly, if you were as big as a kitten, a mosquito bite would kill you. Which can't have been good news for underweight infants of the 1870s. But it does hint at why the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District began dousing the Twin Cities with fuel oil and DDT nearly a century later.


The mosquito has a proboscis like an elephant, only not so large. It will, however, look nearly as large under a good microscope. He cannot do so many handy things with it as the elephant can, with his, but he can cause a good deal of annoyance with it in a small way.
It is hardly the thing to say that the mosquito bites us, for he has not teeth. The microscope reveals the fact that he carries a pair of scissors inside of his proboscis; the neatest and sharpest little cutting tools you ever saw. He gets his living by these. They are two delicate little blades, and are placed alongside each other. When he is ready to make a meal off of us, he first buzzes around with those beautiful wings and sings a pleasant little song. If we let him quietly settle down, he picks out a place on our skin which is just to his liking. He is very delicate about it. When he gets ready, he puts his proboscis down, and pushes the little scissors out, and makes a neat cut, so that he can suck the blood out.
Then he drinks as much blood as he wants, and he is done with his dinner, but he does not leave yet. He is going to pay his bill. He has taken our blood, and he will leave us something in exchange for it. With all his faults, he is an honest little fellow – after his fashion. He has the pay in his pocket, ready to squeeze out before he goes. It is poison, but that makes no difference to him. It is the best he has to give us. His poison pocket is at the head of his proboscis, and at the lower end of his proboscis he has another little pocket, into which he puts poison enough for one dose.
This poison is very powerful. A very little makes the place where the mosquito puts it very sore. After he has sucked our blood he puts the drop of poison into the place he took the blood from. It is not the bite or cut that the mosquito makes that hurts us, but the dropping of this powerful poison into our flesh. If this mosquito were large enough to give a powerful dose of this poison, it would be bad for us. If we were as big as a kitten, and his poison as strong in proportion, a “bite” from him would kill us.

The Metropolitan Mosquito Control District has been taking it to our unofficial state bird since 1958. It’s not clear what Kenneth Shoberg, above, was spraying on a swampy patch of land near Hwy. 7 and W. Lake Street in St. Louis Park in April 1965. But until 1968, the agency applied hundreds of thousands of pounds of DDT each year to breeding sites around the metro area. The United States banned the pesticide four years later. The agency now relies on such insecticides as permethrin and on bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, a naturally occurring bacterium that destroys the mosquitoes’ digestive tracts. Take that, you little buggers. (Minneapolis Tribune photo by Russell Bull)


After serving in the military during World War II, "two fighting Irishmen" from St. Paul, Ed and Bert Cochran, engaged in a war on mosquitoes in the Twin Cities. In 1949, homeowners paid $40 for a DDT treatment every six or seven days from May 1 to Oct. 1. Here Ed Cochran gave the Cedar Shores community a thorough taste of the insecticide. (Minneapolis Star photo)


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